How New Year’s Resolutions Can Keep You From Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

IMG_8463-91-smIt’s mid-January, how are you doing with your New Year’s Resolutions? Are you still feeling the flush of optimism from New Year’s Eve?

Statistically 76% of you made it through week one, but only 71% of you will make it past this week. To help keep you from falling off that list here are some things to think about.
Remember you’re already ahead of the curve! You’re 10 times more likely to keep those goals if you actually make the resolution in the first place. Keep your momentum and you’re in a good position to keep that resolution. Each day you keep with the program the easier it becomes to stay with it from a brain science perspective. Keep reminding yourself about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow… positive reinforcement really does work, especially this early in the process.
If you’re starting to feel the pull to drop your resolution already then try re-evaluating the resolutions you made. Maybe the problem isn’t that you can’t keep resolutions. It’s quite possible you are focusing on the wrong area, or taking the “hard road” to get to your destination. Many times will power isn’t enough by itself to get you to your goal. Trying to force yourself to achieve something without a solid, reliable plan can lead to giving up too soon.
Often the problem is the number of things you are trying to achieve. Setting too many resolutions at once, or having too many goals you’re trying to work towards can dilute your energy and prevent you from succeeding.  Take a hard look at the goals you set and ask yourself the following question: “If I could only choose one of these  goals, which would it be?” If there is one that stands above the rest then perhaps you would be better off just working on that one resolution. It’s easy to lose sight of how reality will impact your goals when you originally set them. Our enthusiasm makes us overly optimistic. Now is a great time to pare down your list to the core changes you want to make, or the top goal you want to achieve this year. That’s not defeat, that’s flexibility.
If you haven’t set a resolution for the year yet, don’t worry. It’s not too late to make your resolution now. It’s still January so technically you can tell anyone who raises an eyebrow that you’re just a thoughtful starter. Then write your resolution down and create a plan. If you need some help you can always use my “How to Finally Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions” online course as a resource. But even if you don’t get my help, the only way you move forward is to stretch yourself and try new things. So go ahead, be bold and make a resolution to improve or change something this year. Big or small, making a goal and achieving it can have lots of positive impact on your life.
Let me know what you think of this post. Was it useful? I really want to know!

Create an Environment for Succees

13885227_sYour environment can make a big splash on your success.

I’m not just talking about your physical environment, but also your social environment. The key is to surround yourself with things that are not just positive but inspiring. That goes for the people you bring into your circle of influence too. Your environment does matter. A study by Dr. Nicholas Christakis and Dr. James Fowler found that people who are surrounded by happy people are more likely to be happy themselves.

Happy people are more productive… even you. The people and situations you surround yourself with can have a positive and profound impact on how you perceive the world, and therefore how you live in it. So be intentional about who and what you keep nearby.

Another way to impact your success is to grow yourself, not just your business. Emotional and intellectual growth both help you stretch yourself in good ways. Read books. Not just business books, but not just non-business books either. Listen to podcasts or interviews about things you don’t know much about. Watch documentaries and shows on new ways of thinking. Stretch your understanding of your business and industry by reading articles that may contain new ideas or new approaches you hadn’t thought of. Allowing yourself to be pushed a bit outside your comfort zone will help you be more flexible and better at spotting solutions you may have missed in the past.

Here are a couple of books I’ve read recently that I enjoyed. Feel free to try one of them out and watch your perspective open up. Both were eye opening looks at leadership that gave me some relevant insights.

Seth Godin: Tribes
Simon Sinek: Leaders Eat Last

Challenge yourself but also leave room to be uplifted. Make sure to surround yourself with things that inspire you. Whatever form that takes. Inspiration comes from many places and can also spark the creative process more effectively when you’re doing mundane tasks too. Paintings, graphic art, music, furniture or even the color of your office walls can help you feel surrounded by possibilities, or stuck in a beige business grind. Add some color to your day and you’ll find yourself smiling at odd times… and just possibly thinking more clearly too.

One of the things I do every morning is to start the day with music. I vary it by my mood, however I like to create mixes that I can play that puts me in a positive mood. In his book “This is Your Brain on Music”, Daniel Levity explains that “music involves nearly every every region of the brain we know about, and nearly every neural subsystem”. Maybe that’s why I like to listen to my mix so much when I’m getting ready for the day.

Listening to music activates the same pleasure areas in your brain that eating does. Areas that have evolved to reward productive behavior that keeps us alive. Perhaps this is where the idea that music nourishes the soul comes from. Below is a song that I like to listen to when I’m feeling overwhelmed or struggling to keep perspective when things aren’t going my way.

“Breathe” by Telepopmusik

It is on several of my music mixes, especially the one I titled “Morning Coffee”. It has many songs that make me smile, tap my feet or want to move around. That musical energy is great for morning (I’m not a morning person by nature)… and it can pull me out of a slump to get me on track to have a great meeting, be more productive, or just make my day a bit brighter.

Business isn’t all making plans and executing them. Sometimes it takes extra effort or a boost of inspiration to get us over the hump. Use the tools you have but also learn to get more tools by exposing yourself to new ideas and ways of doing things. Surround yourself by people and things and experiences that motivate you to move forward, not just look backward. Life moves forward, time moves forward. Growing and stretching is natural. Learn from the past, live in the present and look forward to a wonderful future.

What do you use to inspire or motivate yourself during the day? Leave a comment below and tell me, I’d love to know.


You can follow Eric @pitchforsuccess on Twitter or on Facebook at PitchforSuccess

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Building a business is a lot like Legos

Mason and Grampa
Mason showing Grampa how to have fun.

My grandson, Mason, is 3 1/2 years old and he loves to play with Legos.

When he comes over for a visit that’s usually the first thing out of the toy box. Needless to say Mason is getting more Legos this year as his present from Grampa. I’m looking forward to sitting on the floor and watching his imagination unfold later this week.

As I play with Mason on the floor I am struck by the similarities in our play and what I do every day in running my business. Both activities involve lots of creativity. Playing with Legos may be lower stakes, but the process is very similar to the way I solve issues on the job. Building a business is not so very different than building a space ship or castle.

First on the list of similarities is that you have to decide what you want to build.

Here is where Mason and I differ in style. I like to just start putting things together and see what ideas spring to mind. The creation evolves as I go. Mason likes to decide in advance what he’s making. “This is where the beanstalk goes,” he stated not long ago, clearing all the bricks from a spot on the carpet. He then proceeded to build a towering edifice reaching into his imaginary sky. Then the boy figurine, named Raphael after his beloved Ninja Turtles, climbed up to the giant’s castle, “to fight bad guys,” as Mason informed me. And he kicked some serious butt too.

As with bad guy butt kicking it is important to understand what business we want to build. Whether you began your business with intention, knowing what you wanted it to look like, or whether you began doing what you loved and “found yourself” in business is not really important. Businesses change over time. Many people find that the business they started out with is not the business they currently run. The key is to understand what business you are really in and to be intentional about how you build it moving forward.

That requires you to understand your business model (the why, what, how and who of your company… that I call your “Authentic Identity”). You also need to be able to define your best customers, even if you don’t have any yet. I’m not just talking about someone with money looking to buy what you sell… but the customer who is the best all around fit for what you do and how you do it. Once you know that it’s important to know what sets you apart from your competitors… your unique value proposition… and you need to know how to articulate it to the world. These become the building blocks of your company.

The second similarity is this… you have to know what resources are available to you when you build.

When Mason and I play we have a limited number of bricks and pieces to work with. This means if we want to build an airplane we must fashion the fuselage, wings and the tail from what we have. It makes for some interesting aircraft I assure you. The advantage we have on the living room floor is that they all fly flawlessly around the room and land anywhere. Imagination does have some advantages after all.

In business we likewise must work with what we have. Many times limited resources prevent us from doing what we’d like to do with our company. More capital, more people, more equipment or more time would always be welcomed. However, it is sometimes the lack of resources that drives innovation. Not having something that would easily solve a problem creates a need for us to think outside the box, to improvise.

Like Mason’s Lego planes we often must do what we do with the pieces parts on hand. Take heart though, some of the most ingenious innovation has happened under just such limitations. Ask any successful entrepreneur and you will almost certainly find they had to tweak some things along the way. Flexibility is crucial in running a business. This is why understanding your business is so important. You need to know what pieces you do have… so you can figure out new and exciting ways to put them together to achieve your goals.

The third similarity is this… sometimes you need a little help.

I have a bit more experience in building with Legos than Mason does (at least 40 years… give or take). So I am less likely to get stuck, and frustrated when things don’t go according to plan. He is still at the age where structural engineering skills are being learned. Case in point, the train that was far too wide to stay upright, the building that was way too tall and skinny not to break in half.Even those two pesky bricks that don’t seem to want to stay together can thwart his building projects.

These are times when Mason turns to me to lend a hand. I  ask some questions about the intent of the project, size up the dilemma, evaluate the approach and offer suggestions. I become his co-creator. Taking my lead from him I assist him to build whatever his imagination dreams up. And all is right with the world again.

There are times in running a business when it’s prudent to bring in someone with a bit more experience. To hire someone to help you figure out a better way to do something can help you out of a jam… even if that jam is how to continue growing when things appear good. Knowing when it is time to call in the cavalry can be tricky, but eventually almost all successful business owners get help. The key is to know what kind of help you really need. Knowing your business inside and out can help this.

This is something I have struggled with too. My answer was to develop the Authentic Identity and Perfect Client Profile to help me see exactly where my business was now, and who I needed to be reaching in order to grow. It was by doing that work that I determined I needed marketing help… specifically someone who understands public relations.

So, I hired Elysa Leonard of Splash Communications, a marketing expert who specialized in PR, to help me out. Maybe you’ve seen the results recently. If not, you will. This is just a part of an entire strategy I’ve built to grow my business. You can do the same. It’s all about intentional action. Sometimes you need to have someone with a fresh set of eyes and the right experience or skills to help you figure out what you need to do next.

Hopefully you will be able to spend some time unplugged from your everyday business life during the holidays. I also hope that you will get the chance to play… and maybe, just maybe, that can help you when you dive back in to build some beanstalks of your own.


You can follow Eric @pitchforsuccess on Twitter or on Facebook at PitchforSuccess

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The Key to Engaging an Audience

Presenting to a GroupA friend of mine called me in a panic the other day. She had to give a presentation at work and she was petrified. I asked her what the problem was and she replied, “what if I’m not interesting?” She was worried that she was not well known in her company and so people wouldn’t be willing to listen to what she had to say if she wasn’t outstanding.

This is not the first time I’ve had this conversation with someone. As a presentation coach I work with lots of people who are nervous about public speaking. The good news is that my friend didn’t have to be some celebrity speaking to get people to listen to her. She just had to be good at being herself in front of the room. You don’t have to be a personality to have personality when you present. You do need to keep your audience interested and engaged. Just being natural and not trying to be someone you’re not is the real trick to a first class presentation.

When I was teaching classes to IT engineers for Cisco I learned some important lessons about teaching adults. A good friend of mine, who was a master instructor in the Air Force, explained to me one day that if you can engage your class they will take care of learning the information themselves. This was a real revelation for me. All I really needed to figure out was how to keep them interested and participating for the full week of the course. Since many of my students didn’t really want to be there, and the content I was teaching couldn’t be changed, that could be a bit of a challenge. However, it was a challenge I was willing to take on.

From that point on I committed myself to paying attention to how my classes reacted to different ways of presenting the course material. I began trying new things to keep the class interesting. I could not deviate in the content I was teaching, but I could vary how I delivered the information. I was looking for the most effective and most interesting ways to keep the class with me the entire time.

I used videos during breaks, I played music, I would demonstrate concepts and processes by drawing diagrams. I had the class interactively tell me how to draw the diagrams to build the different systems we were learning about. I encouraged people to experiment during the lab sections. Try a certain configuration and see what happened, then report it to the whole class. I supported them in asking lots and lots of questions, both of me, and of each other. This created a dynamic, engaging environment that was fun for everyone in the room. That included me.

There’s nothing worse than presenting something that you find boring. If you think it’s stupid your audience is certainly going to see that and they just might think it’s stupid too. So finding a way to be interested in whatever it is you’re presenting only helps make you a better presenter. Find something that you think is particularly relevant, eye opening or exciting about your presentation and emphasize those sections. That will go along way to helping your audience be interested as well. When you’re excited they are more likely to be curious what you’re excited about. Emotion is catchy. Use that fact in your delivery.

There are a lot of ways to accomplish this. You just need to find one or two techniques that work well for you. It helps if those techniques match your personality. If humor is your thing then be funny. Don’t be afraid to make the audience laugh. If you are not comfortable with humor then for goodness sake do not try telling jokes. It will come off is disingenuous and potentially turn off your audience. Your delivery needs to be consistent with who you are in real life. Authenticity is important for you to be seen as credible and believable. However, you do need to keep in mind that you’re going to have a mix of personalities in your audience. So you can’t just do a presentation that you alone would like. That will be too limiting and will only be interesting to the people just like you. So you do have to learn to mix it up a little bit.

The biggest thing that everyone needs to know when you’re giving a presentation is to be clear what story you are telling. Humans communicate through telling stories and a presentation is just a specific kind of story. Like a fairy tale, a business presentation needs to have a beginning a middle and an end. It needs to go somewhere. By that I mean that we need to be able to follow where you’re leading us, the audience, so we can discover things along the way. Just throwing a bunch of facts and figures and data up on a slide is not telling a story. It may be important information but we may not see it as particularly interesting without a narrative about why it’s important, where it came from, or what we need to do with it.

When you need to give a presentation use these factors to help you prepare and focus on keeping your audience interested. Engage them while you are speaking and be authentic in your attitude towards what you are talking about. Tell them a story about why this is important and what you want them to do with this information. Use interesting pictures, videos, sounds or props to help make the information relevant to them. Work on ways to keep them engaged and actively listening to what you’re saying.

Doing some or all of these things will virtually guarantee that your audience will respond positively to whatever it is you’re talking about. It will also help you feel more comfortable and more confident in front of the room. Knowing that you’re giving them something that they will want, in a way they can engage with, helps you get over any nervousness you have before you start. Following these guidelines, anyone really can give an interesting presntation… even you.


Risk is Your Friend

Lion TamerHere’s the thing about running a business. You’re going to be wrong most of the time. My experience is that somewhere between 50-80% of the decisions you make won’t work out like you think they will. I don’t have scientific backing for that statement… but my experience working in and running businesses make me comfortable throwing it out there. Regardless of the numbers, you will constantly be surprised by what happens. What you thought was going to be brilliant will end up not being brilliant. Sometimes you’ll end up being dead wrong.

At first this may sound like a pessimistic statement. However, I find that the one thing successful business owners all learn is that you can’t eliminate that risk. You can only manage it. Starting a business is inherently risky. So the best you can do is to make the best decision you know how with the information you have at the time. The good news is that can be enough to keep your business successful.

The key is to stay focused and continue taking action. While taking any action is better than doing nothing, intentional action is your golden ticket. I see many businesses flailing around and trying anything that looks like it might bring in more customers. I know that feeling, I’ve experienced it first hand. The feeling that you don’t know what to do to get customers in the door can throw you into a panic state. That’s when anything can look like a life preserver.

It’s important to resist just trying anything though. One of the main reasons is that if you are not sure why you are doing what you’re doing, you will not be able to figure out how to replicate it if it works. You need to be able to track what you’re doing so you can evaluate what works and what doesn’t. If you try something and it works, you need to be able to do it again. That can help you gain back a feeling of control too. So you want to have a good reason for trying something new, even if it feels risky at first.

This is the concept behind A/B testing in on-line marketing. This is a common practice that entails creating two versions of a web page with some sort of call to action and tracking which works better. A common pattern is to send 50% of the visitors to page A and 50% of the visitors to page B. Then you track the traffic and see which page performs better. Then to refine performance even more the ‘winning’ page is then altered slightly and replaces the losing page in the test. If page B does better initially the original A page is dropped and a modified version of page A is then tested. In this manner web marketers can determine fairly quickly what colors, elements, wording and images get the best response.

You can do similar things in other aspects of your business. All it takes is some courage to try something different and a way to track results. Seth Godin often talks about the idea of risk in today’s business world. The idea that playing is safe is actually the most risky thing you can do hits this nail right on the head. You can try things. Innovate small parts of your process, or try communicating a different way with your clients. Then track the results and see what happens. If it creates a positive reaction do it some more. If it doesn’t then don’t. But either way track what happened. This will help you make decisions about what to do, and what might work, in the future. This also has the advantage of keeping you from trying too many things at once… which can prevent you from evaluating the results effectively.

Being wrong and taking risks are part of being an entrepreneur. So embrace those ideas. Make them work for you. Learn new skills that stretch your comfort zone and help you take new risks. Discover what other people are doing and try something that you think might work for you. Don’t just try anything… give it some thought. Ask yourself how it might affect your business before you jump, certainly. But don’t stop there. Embrace the risk and make it your friend. It just might enable you to find the four leaf clover that opens up your market like never before.


You can follow Eric @pitchforsuccess on Twitter or on Facebook at PitchforSuccess

To get information on sharing this article or having Eric speak to your group email